Berwick “Underscore” Augustin Interview
It was an honor to be able to interview Berwick “Underscore” Augustin. He is a Playwright, Spoken Word Artist, Writer, Producer, Instructor, Director and an Acting coach. He is a modern day Renaissance Man. He uses his gifts and talents to uplift, inspire and to evoke change in the community.
Berwick “Underscore” Augustin’s literary work is a sponge that has been soaked with a strong blend of culture and spirituality. He uses spoken word poetry and theatre as a vehicle to drive empowerment, freedom, and pride to the international community from a Haitian perspective. He is the founder of South Florida’s monthly interactive spoken word experience, P.H.I.R.S.T. IMPRESSIONZ (2002-present). Mr. Augustin has also facilitated writing workshops throughout South Florida. He served as the Artistic Administrator, Acting Coach, and spoken word instructor for Miramar Cultural Art Center’s Summer Camp’s Little Broadway (2012-2013).
Underscore’s tongue is the pen of a ready writer. As a speaker and performing artist for over a decade, he has been blessed to arouse purpose, passion, direction, and discipline into the lives of many. Berwick has written, produced, directed and acted in numerous stage productions. As a playwright, his plays reveal the true essence of reality by fusing his visionary mind with the power of interpreting hands. From 2005-2010, he released four spoken word CDs (The Base The Chase The Place; I’m Looking, Babymama, and Babydaddy). On the theatre stage, he has been blessed to premiere new works Libere Liberis (2004), HaitiArt (2006), The Awakening (2007), DiaspoArt (2008), Pray-Hope-Help (2010), Timeless (2011), Clashing Christmas Carols (2011), Hispaniolove (2012), and Living This Life (2014).
Under Mr. Augustin’s leadership, the company has collaborated with Final Destination Music Group, Art Fusion Gallery, Haitian Heritage Museum, Fashion Showcase with Labissiere Dezign, Arts of Color Production, Lavie Music, and Nest of the Living Arts. In 2008, the company released DiaspoArt, a unique line of Haitian-Creole and English greeting cards. The company looks forward to a future that will fuse pieces of the arts and multiculturalism into well-blended productions for the international community.
Vicky S. Joseph: How did you find your voice?
Underscore: I found my voice once I started writing authentically. Whatever I had on the inside naturally flowed on paper and on stage. I was never one to compare my work with others so that helped me stay true to my voice as well.
Vicky S. Joseph: Why did you start the Evoke180 movement?
Underscore: I started the Evoke180 movement as a means to sprinkle seeds of transformation in the lives of the unchurched and those in need of hope. The arts is such a powerful tool to arouse change in individuals and ultimately society. Most importantly, 180 is about turning your back to things that are ungodly, unproductive, and unfruitful.
Vicky S. Joseph: How was your stage name “Underscore” birthed?
Underscore: A childhood friend gave it to me when I was in college before she passed. We were writing correspondence letters to each other and had to pick an alias for one another. I called her “Lil’ Russet,” she called me “Underscore.” This is before I indulged in the world of spoken word and theatre. Once I began to write and perform, the pen name was a no brainer.
Vicky S. Joseph: How has Spoken Word changed your life?
Underscore: Spoken word has changed my life by literally saving my existence. Primarily, I believe and confessed God’s spoken words; which saved my life spiritually. In 2001, I was suicidal, spoken word poetry was the outlet that helped me maintain my sanity and not harm myself physically.
Underscore: The process is ever evolving. I get inspired by life and everything it brings with it. Some pieces are written after conversations, watching current events, or reading. Sometimes I’m driving I’ll either pull over or record an idea on my phone and finish the piece at a later time. For some strange reason, a lot of projects or revelations come in the shower. Of course, there are the quiet times when I’m meditating and talking to God; he downloads His plan in my spirit.
Vicky S. Joseph: How would you encourage someone who wants to start a movement? What steps should they take?
Underscore: To start a movement, I would encourage someone to definitely be confident about their belief system: 1. Believe the movement is bigger than you. 2. Be laser focus on the mission and not get sidetracked by people, money, fame, or distractions (granted the mission is not about those things in the first place). 3. Anything below excellence is uncivilized. 4. Surround yourself with like-minded individuals who will help execute the movement.
Vicky S. Joseph: What is your superpower?
Underscore: The Triune Godhead (God, Christ, Holy Spirit).
Vicky S. Joseph: What advice would you give your younger self?
Underscore: I would tell my younger self to pray more, be wiser when making moves, seek excellent mentorship like my life depended on it, and not juggle too many things at one time.
Vicky S. Joseph: What advice would you give an individual who is nervous about sharing their art publicly?
Underscore: I would tell them fear is a crippling disease; I would tell them that their art is the antidote for it and that sick person who’s dying to hear your message. Your pain, gift, and talents are not for you. There’s a world of people who are waiting on your work for various reasons, if you don’t do it God will simply choose someone else to fulfill the goal.
Vicky S. Joseph: How can an individual become comfortable with being vulnerable in their writing?
Underscore: Becoming comfortable with being vulnerable has everything to do with why you’re writing. If it’s about you and your reputation, then you’ll have a hard time. Once you believe that your writing is a source of healing that happens to be running through you as a vessel, then you’re humbled to put an x-ray on your skeleton closet. At the end of the day, everyone has an opinion about you before you open your mouth so you might as well say something.
Vicky S. Joseph: How do you find work-life balance and remain true to your creative projects? What’s your secret?
Underscore: There is no secret. If someone lied to you and told you they have the secret, I wanna meet him or her. Balance is a fleeting thing. Something will be sacrificed in order for you to attain an ultimate goal. There are times when I lay low off certain projects because priorities call for it. It becomes more difficult when you’re married. It’s a beyond difficult if you have kids.
Vicky S. Joseph: If you had the power to change one social issue in our society what would it be?
Underscore: The welfare system. I’d give it to the church and let it handle it in a more missional way like the book of Acts.
Underscore: God willing, I’m working on a couple of books. I’d like to restage a few of the plays I only produced once. I have a few things in mind but they’re not official until God puts His stamp of approval on them.
Vicky S. Joseph: How can people get in touch with you?
Underscore: www.evoke180.com or firstname.lastname@example.org I have a blog on the website, that’s a good to stay informed with what’s going on with the movement… To subscribe to our newsletter, they can text to the number 22828 and type Evoke180 as the text message.